Monday, July 23, 2012

The mountains call

Peak Lake Basin in the northern Winds - high and wild
The Wind River Mountains! It’s that time of year again, poring over a topographic map of the northern Winds. Seeing the trail (Elkhart-Seneca-Indian Pass) going up up up through forests and across meadows and on the second day out of the forest into mostly open sub-alpine terrain (below photo, right) with lakes, glacier-scoured granite domes, groves of pine trees and on the third day, into the alpine (like in the above photo, left) where it’s all rock and tundra, ice and snow and water. Still going up and on the fourth day, if the weather is clear and my strength is good, leaving most gear behind and climbing Freemont Peak (13,745). The next day is off-trail over Indian Pass at ~12,000 feet and down Knife Point Glacier. I’ll set up a base camp for a few days and wander in the rock, ice, snow at the terminuses of this and other glaciers.

Then back over Indian Pass, down Indian Basin, past Island Lake back into the sub-alpine, where maybe I’ll sit for a day before walking out. The photo at right (below) is where I camped my second night in 2011 – I regretted not walking at least up to that little rise in the right center of the photo, maybe back there for a place to sit. I may spend one more night at the edge of one of the huge meadows they call “parks” up here, then out and it’s time for a cheeseburger and fries at the Wind River Brewery and a hot shower, sleep, and start home. Total 10-12 days on the trail, about 50 miles.
Sub-alpine area campsite along the Seneca Lake Trail

It’s unclear exactly when this will happen as the work on the hail damage at our house continues. It isn’t all that important when, except I need to be out of the mountains by mid to late September because of the snow.

House repairs drag on. Even though we seem to have a good guy in charge of the various subcontracting crews, it’s been stressful, but we’ve hung in there, mutually supportive. All this is against a background of how lucky we are (no tornado, no fire, no flood). Anyway, it’s far more pleasant studying the map, looking at photos, planning what I’ll eat, and so on.

I had to clear out the attic (with some help from Ron the construction superintendent) so all the insulation can be removed and new insulation put it. Leslie and I went through some Christmas decos and I ended up with more lights for the welcome lights on the arbor at the front sidewalk. I put them up today and this evening walked out to look at the lights and the fragrance of the four o’clocks was intense. Nice.

Campsite in southern Titcomb Basin
It looks like I’ll celebrate my 68th birthday somewhere high in the alpine. My 65th was deep in the northern end of the incomparable Titcomb Basin “… a sight that will haunt you forevermore” (The World’s Great Adventure Treks) ”… dark and foreboding, almost like something out of the Lord of the Rings” (Dorf’s Winds, 2006). What a birthday that was, at the end of an epic journey! 

"The mountains call and I must go" (John Muir). 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Books for David

I have a lot of books – several thousand, several walls of them. About 35 of these are in a section I told David I’d like for him to keep after I die. Here is what’s there.

The Hill Fights: The First Battle of Khe Sanh (Edward F. Murphy). I was in the Hill Fights (168 KIA, 1000s wounded). Hidden away in all the struggle in the book a guy described something I did, so that was nice to read.

Refugee and Immigrant Health (Charles Kemp and Lance Rasbridge). Lance and I (not to mention Leslie!) spent countless hours in the streets and apartments of Dallas’ refugee neighborhoods. We wanted to tell some of the stories of the remarkable people we worked with in the bad old days.

Dispatches (Michael Herr). This is a real book about combat in the world’s first rock & roll war. Guns up! Balls to the wall mother-fucker.

Street Without Joy (Bernard Fall). Fall was the preeminent French scholar of the Vietnam War. He also wrote Hell in a Very Small Place, about Dien Bien Phu. I spent a lot of time on and around la Rue Sans Joie, where Fall was killed in 1967.

I Remember Nothing More (Adina Blady Szwajger). A book about the Warsaw (ghetto) Children’s Hospital. “…a testament to the workings of humanity in an era of unfathomable evil.”

The Norton Book of Modern War. British ditty from WWI: “The bells of hell go ting-a-ling for thee, but not for me...” I have a lot of books on war. I didn’t set out to do that. I just pulled together the most important books to me and many of them turned out to be on war.

Barrack Room Ballads (Rudyard Kipling). This is the book where (the road to) Mandalay is found. The last time we were in Burma we went to Moulmein, in large part, for me to sit where Supi-yaw-lat (the girl in the poem) sat “…lookin’ eastward to the sea” and when I looked to the west I saw the damp dirty prison where the donkey cart driver who took us up the hill had been tortured. His wife was a doctor, so I gave him several courses of levofloxacin as a gift to her.

We Were Soldiers Once…and Young (Harold Moore and Joseph Galloway). The Battle in Ia Drang Valley (LZ X-Ray). One lesson is never let the enemy cut your column. They tried to do that to us in our first operation at the DMZ, but couldn’t.

Never So Few (Tom Chamales). This is the only book Chamales wrote. It’s about guerrilla warfare in Burma in WWII. I think I first read it in high school – I learned a lot about being the kind of man I am from this book.

Cambodge (J.P. Dannaud). The “essence du Cambodge” in photos and words, from the 1950s. I spent a lot of time looking at the photos in the early 1980s, but the words are in French, so I missed >95% of that part.

The Stones Cry Out: A Cambodian Childhood, 1975-1980 (Molyda Szmusiak). “That night Robana, Ton Ny’s six year old sister, had a dream in which she saw someone very like an angel who carried an armful of five lotus blossoms and spoke to her. ‘Don’t be afraid, my little girl, I’m keeping your mama with me. But you shall go on living’ … the first to die were the two five year old twins, three days apart, lying silently on a bamboo pallet; then two other brothers… then…”
In Hue, beautiful Hue

Terminal Illness: A Guide to Nursing Care (Charles Kemp). I worked in hospice 1978-1981 (Director, Clinical Specialist), then taught undergraduate and graduate courses in hospice and palliative care – and most of the time was seeing someone as a volunteer. Several publishers wanted this book; I chose Lippincott because they were Bernard Fall’s publisher.

Amazing Dope Tales (Stephen Gaskin). Stephen was my first teacher. This book isn’t about psychedelics; it is psychedelic.

How Can I Help? Stories and Reflections on Service (Ram Dass and Paul Gorman). The book answers the question of the title, mindfully, humbly.

Monday Night Class (Stephen Gaskin). Excerpts from Stephen’s Monday Night Classes. “It answered all my wishes and all my childhood dreams, and it gave me everything I wanted.”

Night (Elie Wiesel). Nazi concentration camps. “That night the soup tasted of corpses.”

Up Front (Bill Mauldin). Text and amazing illustrations, Willie and Joe, fighting a terrible war, in the mud and rain and drudgery. “You’ll get over it Joe. Oncet I wuz gonna write a book exposin’ the army after the war myself.”

Journal (Charles Kemp). Short, really just a few notes.

Hell in a Very Small Place (Bernard Fall). The Battle of Dien Bien Phu. Horror, gallantry, mistakes, death in 1954.

The Battle of Dien Bien Phu (Jules Roy). Another account of Dien Bien Phu.

For the Sake of All Living Beings (John Del Vecchio). I vow to become enlightened for the sake of all living beings (Buddhist vow). This a novel about Cambodia, the war, the years zero.

To Bear Any Burden (Al Santoli). An oral history (Vietnamese and American) of the Vietnam War and its aftermath.

Everything We Had (Al Santoli). An oral history (American) of the Vietnam War.

Journeys Through Bookland (Charles Sylvester). I inherited several volumes of these well-illustrated old books (excerpts from classics) for boys from my father.

Treasure Island (Robert Louis Stevenson). I read this book many, many times. A great story.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Mark Twain). Another great one.

Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain). And yet another.

Tuna Fart Funnies (C Kemp). Notes from anatomy and Physiology – courses that were central to me in changing direction in my life.

Time Magazine on September 11, 2001.

Refugee and Immigrant Health (Charles Kemp & Lance Rasbridge). This was the first (shorter and limited) edition of this book.

Holy Bible, RSV. This is the Bible I used writing parts of the terminal illness books and related articles and chapters in other books.
At Khe Sanh

I Protest! (David Douglass Duncan). Dark photographs from Khe Sanh, Con Thien – all the bad places I was. Goddam, it was hard fighting in those places.

The Quiet American (Graham Greene). To me, this is a very realistic novel about Vietnam.

Infectious and Tropical Diseases (Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, Charles Kemp, Carrie Kovarik). Put it in your backpack and head on into the edge.

The Lover (Marguerite Duras). A short, very beautiful book about a woman and a man in Vietnam.

River of Time: A Memoir of Vietnam (Jon Swain). A book about how “whole generations of westerners who went out there as soldiers, doctors, planters, or journalists lost their hearts to these lands of the Mekong … there are places that take over a man’s soul.”

There’s a lot of darkness in that list – and some hope and light hidden away in there. And obviously I read many other things, but those are the books that I thought and still think are most important to me. To everything, turn, turn, turn, there is a season.